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Recovery of the Gospel

There is no doubt that evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel. Without realising it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. Why?

We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be ‘helpful’ to man—to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction—and too little concerned to glorify God.

J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 125–126.
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Striving to Save Ourselves

We have heard how the Spirit admonishes the unbelievers who strive to save themselves. This evil is inborn in us, that in times of need we run to all gods except the one God. Therefore God meets us with Scripture, where the contention is that all our toil and merits are cut out by the promises alone apart from the works of the Law, as Paul treats of it so richly in Galatians 3:15ff. There he says that God’s covenant was in force out of pure mercy and promise a long time, 400 years in fact, before the Law. These arguments are unfailing: By grace alone all things come to us who merit nothing. Yet the flesh cannot keep silent in afflictions but always runs back to its own resources, and people look for help to their own prayers and merits. Thus the sophists debated whether the blessed Virgin deserved to become a mother. I say that she was made a mother according to promise before she was born, before she gave any thought to the matter. So here Israel should be plucked out of the Babylonian captivity gratis, at no cost, absolutely free. Therefore the prophet meets this evil especially, since all of us, immersed in trials, forget the promises of God and have recourse to our own resources.

—Martin Luther
“Lectures on Isaiah: Chapters 40-66” in Works,  17:141–142.

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The First Duty of Parents

“Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.”
—Joel 1:3

In this simple way, by God’s grace, a living testimony for truth is always to be kept alive in the land—the beloved of the Lord are to hand down their witness for the gospel, and the covenant to their heirs, and these again to their next descendants. This is our first duty, we are to begin at the family hearth: he is a bad preacher who does not commence his ministry at home. The heathen are to be sought by all means, and the highways and hedges are to be searched, but home has a prior claim, and woe unto those who reverse the order of the Lord’s arrangements.

To teach our children is a personal duty; we cannot delegate it to Sunday school teachers, or other friendly aids; these can assist us, but cannot deliver us from the sacred obligation; proxies and sponsors are wicked devices in this case: mothers and fathers must, like Abraham, command their households in the fear of God, and talk with their offspring concerning the wondrous works of the Most High.

Parental teaching is a natural duty—who so fit to look to the child’s well-being as those who are the authors of his actual being? To neglect the instruction of our offspring is worse than brutish. Family religion is necessary for the nation, for the family itself, and for the church of God. …

Would that parents would awaken to a sense of the importance of this matter. It is a pleasant duty to talk of Jesus to our sons and daughters, and the more so because it has often proved to be an accepted work, for God has saved the children through the parents’ prayers and admonitions.

—C. H. Spurgeon
Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896), Evening, July 11.

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The Heart of the Gospel

The great doctrine, the greatest of all, is this, that God, seeing men to be lost by reason of their sin, hath taken that sin of theirs and laid it upon his only begotten Son, making him to be sin for us, even him who knew no sin; and that in consequence of this transference of sin he that believeth in Christ Jesus is made just and righteous, ya, is made to be the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ was made sin that sinners might be made righteousness. That is the doctrine of the substitution of our Lord Jesus Christ on the behalf of guilty men.

—Charles H. Spurgeon
The Metropolitan Tabernacle, “The Heart of the Gospel,” Sermon 1910, 2 Cor 5:20–21.

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The Heart of the Gospel

The heart of the Gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. They who preach this truth preach the Gospel in whatever else they may be mistaken; but they who preach not the atonement, whatever else they declare, have missed the soul and substance of the divine message. In these days, I feel bound to go over and over again the elementary truths of the Gospel. In peaceful times, we may feel free to make excursions into interesting districts of truth that lie far afield; but now we must stay at home and guard the hearths and homes of the church by defending the first principles of the faith. In this age, there have risen up in the church itself men who speak perverse things. There be many that trouble us with their philosophies and novel interpretations, whereby they deny the doctrines they profess to teach and undermine the faith they are pledged to maintain. … There are plenty who can fiddle to you the new music. It is for me to have no music at any time but that which is heard in heaven: “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood … to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever!” (Rev 1:5-6).

Charles H. Spurgeon
The Metropolitan Tabernacle, “The Heart of the Gospel,” Sermon text: 2 Corinthians 5:20–21 (1886).